Israel Resource Review 25th April, 2001


Palestinian Arab Educator Bemoans the Cut-off of Funds to PA Schools
Fouad Moughrabi, Qattan Foundation

What Palestinian students are taught in the classroom and what textbooks they read have somehow become a major issue in the current debate on ways to end the cycle of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Clinton drew attention to it in remarks to the Israel Policy Forum in New York a few months ago, thereby endowing it with a measure of credibility. He called on the Palestinians to change the `culture of violence and the culture of incitement that, since Oslo, has gone unchecked.' The President went on to say: "Young (Palestinian) children still are being educated to believe in confrontation with Israel." Repeated often enough, this charge is now considered valid within American and even some European policy circles.

The Palestinians have been quickly charged and convicted in the court of world public opinion in total disregard of the facts, the effects of this campaign have already been nothing short of disastrous. In December 2000, faced with strong parliamentary pressure during an election time, the Italian government informed the Palestinians that it can no longer finance the development of the new Palestinian school curriculum. At the same time, the World Bank also informed the Palestinian Ministry of Education that money allocated to the development of school texts and teacher training will have to be diverted to other projects. This rush to judgment has led to similar reactions by a number of other donor countries.

The focus on Palestinian textbooks implies avoidance of other more important issues. More than a quarter of all Palestinians so far killed by the Israeli army are students under the age of eighteen. The Palestinian educational system has suffered serious setbacks because Israeli imposed closures prevent students and teachers from reaching their schools for long periods of time. Finally, there is no debate or even the slightest bit of international concern about the possible psychological effects of violence and trauma on Palestinian school children.

Normally, international agencies are quick to send mental health professionals to various war-torn regions of the world to help children cope with situations of extreme stress. The Palestinians have had to cope on their own, with limited resources, without international assistance. A few months ago, I tried to convene a small group of people to discuss what can be done to help schoolchildren cope. We discovered, to our amazement, that the international agencies such UNICEF and others that we would have turned to for assistance had evacuated their personnel.

Palestinian mental health professionals, who are few and far between, and school counselors report numerous cases of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among school age children, especially those whose homes and schools are near the points of confrontation. Symptoms include depression, disturbed sleep and nightmares, difficulty concentrating and remembering things especially in schoolwork, diminished interest in enjoyable activities, emotional detachment from parents and friends, bedwetting, and an increased state of alertness. The Palestinian educational system simply cannot cope with the problem. Severe cases of shock go untreated because of the lack of skilled professionals.

Where does the charge that Palestinian schoolbooks promote incitement come from?

The principal research director, Itamar Marcus, is an extreme right wing Jewish settler who lives in Efrat. The outfit is a Jewish-American NGO called the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace. Their web site contains full texts of their work including a study of "The New Palestinian Authority School Textbooks (2000-2001)." The basic conclusion is the following: Ever since the PA (Palestinian Authority) became responsible for education in 1994, Palestinian children have been learning from their schoolbooks to identify Israel as the evil colonialist enemy who stole their land. The new PA schoolbooks fail to teach their children to see Israel as a neighbor with whom peaceful relations are expected. They do not teach acceptance of Israel's existence on the national level, nor do they impart tolerance of individual Jews on the personal level."

Deborah Sontag of the New York Times visited a Palestinian classroom in Ramallah on September 7, 2000. Interestingly enough, my own six-year old son happens to attend this school and is in this same classroom. It is obvious from her text that Ms Sontag was primarily looking for evidence to possibly substantiate the charge. She finds none. Instead she draws a thorough picture of the pedagogical dilemmas facing Palestinians in dealing with complex historical issues. As a father who closely monitors what his son learns at school, I also find no evidence of anti-Jewish incitement in what he is being taught. As a Palestinian-American academic, in Ramallah trying to establish an educational research and development center whose primary objective is to help improve the quality of Palestinian schools, I also find no evidence of brainwashing or anti-Jewish incitement in the new texts produced by the Palestinian Authority. My concerns are primarily ones of quality. I would like to make sure that, now that the Palestinians are in full control of their educational system, they will produce a first rate curriculum that allows their children to compete in the modern world.

Other Israelis who examined the new Palestinian textbooks arrive at a different conclusion. Writing in Haaretz (January 2, 2001), Akiva Eldar says: "The Palestinians are being rebuked where they should in fact be praised. For this school year, the Palestinian Authority has, for the first time ever, printed its own textbooks. A research team from the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, led by Dr. Ruth Firer, has established that the new books are `freer of negative stereotypes of Jews and Israelis, compared to Jordanian and Egyptian books.' The defense establishment has investigated and confirmed this finding." Quoted in Le Monde Diplomatique (Elisa Morena, April 2001), Dr. Firer attributes a political motivation to the right-wing researchers at the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace who, she says, have no educational or methodological skills and only want to prove that it is impossible to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Dr. Firer's Palestinian co-researcher, Dr. Sami Adwan of the Education Department at Bethlehem University, responds to Marcus' allegations (Haaretz, January 2, 2001): "How can a Palestinian write in a textbook that Israelis or Jews should be loved, while what he is experiencing is death, land expropriation, demolition of homes and daily degradation? Give us a chance to teach loving." Dr. Adwan correctly points out that "what children see on the street, on TV and on the Net has a far greater impact than any book." It is indeed frightening that a small extreme right- wing organization, producing shoddy work, can help shape the agenda in a rather complex conflict and eventually have such far-reaching impact on governments throughout the world.

Fouad Moughrabi Professor (on leave) Dept of Political Science University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Director, Qattan Center for Educational Research and Development Ramallah Tel. 972-2-296-3281 (or) 972-2-296-3276

This article was first published on April 12, 2001 on i n f o p a l -- The Independent Palestinian Information Network

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Responding to Palestinian Remorse Over Cut-off of funds to the PA Educational System
Professor Raphael Israeli

To refute what Marcus says does not necessitate attacks on his persona, but a systematic refuation, point by point, of his claims. The fact that you "find no evidence" does not mean that these is none, but that either you did not look in the right places (precisely referenced by Marcus) or you did not want to see it. Sontag is the last witness I would bring, for one thing because she does not understand Arabic and she certainly cannot judge what is said in a classroom.

Going back to the mentality of victim and whining about the poor Palestinian kids who are killed and besieged, does not address the issue either. Because they are killed when they go to the frontlines to confront soldiers with rocks (which kill) or incendiary bombs (which burn), instead of going to school or being at home where no Israeli soldier pursues them.

The siege began after the intifadah broke out, not before. The siege is NOT against the children but against the saboteurs who smuggle their men and ammunition from town to town, and it is the right and duty of the Israeli army to monitor them. In the process, many innocent people are hurt, including children, and that is very painful. Instead of expecting the whole world to pay for your self-inflicted miseries, roll up your sleeves and start working. You make children and expect the UN to feed them. You set up 13 various security apparatuses and want the donor countries to finance them. You spend the little money you have on arms and corruption and want the Arabs and the Americans to foot the bill.

Stop the violence, send people back to work, absorb and settle down your refugees the way Israel did instead of feeding them with the illusions of the right of return, and perhaps there is hope.

Educating for violence is only one aspect of this unfortunate situation. One first has to heal the refugee state of mind which thinks that the world owes you everything instead of taking your fate in your hands and start doing something about it by eradicating corruption and hatred and begin to think and act constructively.

The writer is a senior professor at the Truman Center for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University.

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Should the PA be Asked to Cancel its Death Sentence for "Settlements"
David Bedein

When you demonize a person, he is no longer a person.The transformation of thousands of Israeli citizens into "settlers", a term that now connotes a "stealing squatter", has resulted in the sudden demonization of entire Jewish communities in Israel.

Israel's 'peace movement' scapegoats the "settlers" as THE reason for the the last six months of rioting.

One of those 'peace activists', Yitzhak Frankenthal, characterizes the residents of Katif as the "sons of Satan" who cause the death of Israel's soldiers.

In July, 1990, I covered the visit of a delegation of US citizens from Efrat, Alon Shvut and Tekoa to visit the US consul in Jerusalem.

They posed a question:

"What about the human rights of Jews who live in our communities, from the American point of view".

The consul's clear answer: You have no human rights if you live there.

In other words, the US considers them to be less than human. That is what demonization means - less than human.

In October 1993, following the murder of Haim Mizrachi of Beit El, the provisional council of the nascent Palestinian Authority made one of is first declarations: permission to murder any Jew who lives in the area of a future Palestinian state. (That declaration was distributed by the Arab-run JMCC -Jerusalem Media and Communications Center -to the foreign press based at Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem).

The US raised no objection to such a declaration. Neither did the Rabin government at the time.

That PA death sentence does not only apply to Jews from Judea, Samaria and Katif.

It also applies to the Jewish neighborhoods added to Jerusalem since 1967 and to the Jewish residents who have taken the place of Arab neighborhoods in west Jerusalem and, for that matter, to any of the Israeli communities that rest on lands of villages where Arabs fled from in 1948.

That is why the official VOICE OF PALESTINE radio praises terror attacks in "Kafer Sabba", the pre-1948 Arab name for what since 1949 has been Kfar Saba.

The PA settlement map sold at the PLO's Orient House in Jerusalem delineates these areas of Israeli "settlements" - in all sections of the country.

Yet the way in which the media often reports the killing of "Israeli settlers" seem to be acceptable.

At a time when the Israeli government has asked for the cessation of Arab violence as a condition for the resumption of negotiations, perhaps it would be appropriate for the Israeli government to demand the unconditonal cancellation of the Palestinian Authority death sentence for Jewish "settlers", even if the world tacitly endorses their death.

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